What is a Thai massage?

Thai Massage is a style of traditional medicine that uses passive stretches and acupressure along sen lines.
Thai massage done in the street in Saskatoon, SK, Canada.

Introduction

Thai Massage is new to western spas, but it has been a style of alternative medicine for hundreds of years. A Thai massage is typically a full body massage that can last up to two hours. It uses a combination of passive stretches and gentle pressure along the body’s energy line system to increase flexibility, relieve muscle and joint tension, and provide relaxation. Recipients wear loose-fitting clothing and lie on a massage mat or other cushioned floor mat.
Thai massage is found everywhere in Thailand for a low price, both in spas and kiosks on the streets. There are many schools where you can learn this style of massage as well. The most famous school is the Wat Po Thai Traditional Massage School, located in the reclining Buddha temple in Bangkok. Many people also travel to Chiang Mai to study at the International Training Massage School and the Old Medicine Hospital
The popularity of Thai massage is increasing in Canada. Many larger cities have clinics or spas explicitly designed for massage done on the floor. Other clinics offer a modified form of this massage where Thai massage practitioners work on a massage table rather than on the floor.

Acupressure

Acupressure is a pressure that a therapist applies with thumbs, elbows, and knees. Like acupuncture, acupressure treats disease by promoting relaxation and wellness.

Sib Sen

Sib Sen are the ten life energy channels that radiate from the abdominal cavity to the entire body. Thai massage removes blockages that can obstruct these channels.

Lom Pran

Lom Pran means the wind of life and is the life energy in Thai massage. An obstruction in the flow of Lom Pran can cause discomfort or illness to a person.

Thai Massage Treatments

A typical Thai treatment begins at the feet and works up the body. Practitioners apply acupressure along energy channels using their hands, elbows, arms, knees, and feet. And they stretch the recipient by moving their body into many yoga-like positions that help increase the range of motion. This stretching is why Thai massage is sometimes called lazy man’s yoga or assisted yoga.
Thai massage removes blockages that inhibit the body’s energy force (Prana). Using a combination of stretching and acupressure on pressure points and along energy channels (called Sen), a Thai massage practitioner works to restore balance to the body.

Benefits

Thai massage has apparent benefits for increasing flexibility and range of motion (ROM), but there are other benefits. The stretches help relax your muscles, loosen your body and improve the ROM in all your joints.
The movement in this style of massage helps to enhance blood circulation in the body, which brings more oxygen to your brain and lowers the chance of blood clotting. And a Thai massage encourages slow and deep breathing that balances your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The result is that your body functions more efficiently and faster.
A monthly Thai massage is helpful for those who do not get enough physical exercise. But the effects of regular Thai massage are cumulative. If the goal is health maintenance, recipients will feel better and have less stress and tension by having a Thai massage every week or two.
I love Thai massage

Origin of Thai Massage

Thai massage images from Wat Po
Tradition incorrectly traces Thai massage back 2,500 years to Jivaka Kumarabhaccha, a physician in India who was a contemporary of Buddha. Thai massage more likely began to evolve around one thousand years ago in present-day Thailand.
Most attribute the origin of this Thai massage to Buddhist monks. But Indian, Chinese, and other Southeast Asian traditional medicine systems also influenced Thai massage.
Traditionally, Buddhist monks performed Thai massage in the temples accompanied by other Ayurvedic healing practices like dietary advice, herbs and spiritual counselling. Families also practiced Thai massage at home and passed down their massage techniques from generation to generation.
Buddhist monks wrote formal manuscripts about Thai massage in ancient Pali. Many of these manuscripts were destroyed in 1767 by the Burmese invaders. Then, in 1832, King Rama III instructed Thai therapists to use the epigraphs at Wat Pho to reclaim the lost techniques.

Current Day

Modern Thai massage is the product of a 19th-century synthesis of various healing traditions from all over Thailand. Since Thai massage practitioners have no single Thai massage routine or framework, a Thai massage in one region can differ from a Thai massage in another.
Thailand is now a popular tourist destination, and many people travel to Thailand specifically to learn Thai massage. Some therapists specialize in Thai massage, but many more incorporate the techniques into their existing expertise.
The Ministry of Education in Thailand regulates professional Thai massage practitioners. The Thai Healing Alliance International (THAI) promotes basic standards of study and practice of traditional Thai massage worldwide. THAI also offers information about Thai healing arts to the general public.
In Canada, the Natural Health Practitioners of Canada (NHPC) provides national governance.

Types of Thai Massage

In Thai, Nuad Boran means traditional Thai massage, and Nuat Phaen means Thai-style massage. Nuat Phaen Boran means ancient-style massage. And Nuat Boran translates as traditional Thai medical-massage.
English designations include traditional Thai massage, Royal Thai massage, Thai stretching massage, and Thai yoga massage.
The massage styles vary from north to south in Thailand. Massage in southern Thailand is sometimes called Bangkok massage, or southern style. Northern Thai massage is sometimes called Lanna style massage or northern style.

Folk Thai Massage

In Folk Thai massage, practitioners work over the client to efficiently apply acupressure using body weight.

Royal Thai Massage

Royal Thai massage uses techniques that retain a respectful distance between the therapist and the client.

Luk Pra Kob Massage

Luk Pra Kob massage uses a hot compress comprised of medicinal herbs wrapped in cotton.

Tok Sen Massage

Thai Tok Sen massage uses a wooden mallet and wedge made from the wood of a tamarind tree.

Thai Cupping Massage

The Thai cupping massage technique uses glass, silicone, or bamboo cups that suction the skin.

Thai Oil Massage

Thai Oil Massage treatments mix Thai Traditional Massage, Ayurvedic and Western massage and Thai herbalism.

Thai Foot Reflexology

Thai foot reflexology applies pressure to areas of the feet using thumbs, fingers, knuckles and a wooden massage stick.

Yam Khang Massage

Thai Fire Therapy is a Lanna-style Thai healing practice in which a practitioner uses fire, oils, and their feet.

Ched Hak Massage

Ched Hak is an ancient Lanna technique to remove toxins from the body by wiping or marking.

Thai Table Massage

Thai Table massage is an adaption of Traditional Thai massage techniques for recipients lying on a table.

Thai Chair Massage

Thai Chair massage is an adaption of Traditional Thai massage techniques for recipients seated in a chair.

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